Technological narratives and the ecological worlds they make II

Blockseminar MA, MU, MediaA ab 1. FS 2 SWS | 3 ECTS

Lehrende: Dr. Dulmini Perera; MA Stefanie Huthöfer

"Our own survival depends on understanding that not only are we coupled to our own conceptualisation of ecosystems and ecological order, but also to embodiments of our own ways of thinking about them and acting on them"
Peter Harries-Jones, Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson, Pg 8

Stories of our technologies have always been central to our ways of world-making. This semester, we turn to a different set of stories of design and technology that emerged from the biological turn in systems theory beginning in the 1950s, where design disciplines were part of a broader conversation on what it means to work with the living qualities of ecological systems, whether they were environmental systems, social systems, or minds (human and other than human). This strand of inquiry presented a direct challenge to mechanistic ideas of technology perpetuated by modernity. It challenged faulty assumptions around information and energy feedback loops in living systems, notions of time and change, and models of learning, knowing and action.

In this seminar, we would engage in a critical reading and designerly inquiry, exploring ways this body of thought can enrich how you engage living systems in your design/ architecture / urban design/media design/ interaction design/ computation/ practices. The reading group introduces selected texts from several fields (systems theory, cybernetics, Gaia theory, computation, material studies, philosophy, and design) and would be supplemented by an immersive experience of working on a site in Erfurt (Lehmgrube) with a clay-bee insect habitat as part of an existing building wall that is soon to be demolished and relocated. This exercise would promote reflection on questions such as:

(1) How can we work with the clay-bee ecology in ways that are responsive to its living properties?

(2) Are their ways of researching such a living ecology that enable other ways of thinking about design and technology? In what ways does this experiment help ways of thinking about technology and ecology in relation to the multiple cosmologies of a ‘world where many worlds fit’?

(3) What are the ethical and political implications of such an approach? How does this contribute to current discussions on sustainability and transformation seeking to move away from problematic stories of modernity, technology, and progress?

All interested are welcome!

Literatur: A full list of readings and other sources would be available on Moodle.

The grades will be given based on seminar discussion (50%) + speculative experiment with clay ecology (50%)
Each participant should maintain a note-book (or sketch book) that records their thoughts/sketches on the readings as well their design response to the site (clay ecology). This would be graded at the end of the workshop period.
More details related to the speculative project would be presented on the introduction session.
Note: The Seminar is  part of a series of activities, workshops and events funded by DFG (Germany) grant number 508363000 and the AHRC (United Kingdom).


Course Dates + General outline:

October 18 -  11.00-12.00 -Introduction to general outline of course+ readings (Weimar) + intro to assignment and clay site ecology (Erfurt-site visit)

October 19 - (Weimar) 11.00-12.30 - reading and discussion session, 13.30- 15-00- discussion and workshop session

October 20 - (Weimar) 11.00-12.30 - reading and discussion session, 13.30- 15-00- discussion and workshop session

October 25 - (Weimar) 11.00-12.30 - reading and discussion session, 13.30- 15-00- discussion and workshop session

October 26 - (Erfurt) Full day on site / material explorations ( more details will be shared at the introduction)

October 27 - (Weimar) 11.00- 15.00 Presentation of speculative projects + seminar conclusion